Tour Israel: Gems hiding in plain sight

Once you’ve spent a few hours taking advantage of all the exciting attractions the hotel has to offer, it’ll most likely be time for dinner.

August 21, 2019 18:23
Tour Israel: Gems hiding in plain sight

MINA, A favorite seafood restaurant in Acre.. (photo credit: GARY ROZNIKOVSKI)

The end of the summer is quickly approaching, and many of you may feel that you’ve visited every single amusement and nature park in the entire country already, so all that’s left to do is book a trip overseas. Needless to say, you cannot fathom the idea of spending even five more minutes at the neighborhood mall. The time has come, then, to pack your bags and set out for northern Israel, where you’ll find lots of new and exciting activities for the kids, as well as eclectic restaurants the entire family will enjoy.
Many Israelis think you have to fly overseas to experience something new, but I’ve found there are plenty of hidden gems hiding right here at home: expansive deserts, majestic mountains and ravishing green valleys. All parents know the last two weeks of summer vacation are the hardest and longest, so my recommendation is to spend a few days at the Hacienda Forest View Hotel in Ma’alot Tarshiha, which is spread out over more than 15 acres of pastoral green areas that look out over the forests of northern Israel.

Though it’s not new, this relatively large hotel has more than ample space to accommodate all the guests in its 160 rooms without feeling crowded. Nightly rates begin at NIS 1,000-1,420 for couples and families, with some of the rooms including a spa, balcony or jacuzzi. The Hacienda Forest View Hotel has also recently inaugurated a new Galil Complex, which comprises four boutique guest rooms with balconies and wooden decks that lead out to a beautiful garden.

There aren’t many hotels in Israel located in the midst of such lush greenery, where the air is clean and crisp, that offer a plethora of activities for children. Hacienda offers a large swimming pool, a separate pool for small children, and a sport facility with areas for basketball, soccer, ping-pong and a giant chess board. There’s a wonderful babysitting service, a gym, mini-golf, and a top-rate spa, an endless current pool with an incredible view, an authentic Turkish bath or hamaam, a dry sauna, and a cosmetic treatment spa with relaxation rooms and light refreshments.

THE HACIENDA Forest View Hotel in Ma’alot Tarshiha looks out over the forests of northern Israel. (Credit: GARY ROZNIKOVSKI)

Once you’ve spent a few hours taking advantage of all the exciting attractions the hotel has to offer, it’ll most likely be time for dinner. You’ll be happy to know that the hotel boasts a snack bar, a restaurant, and sometimes on Thursday evenings holds a massive festive asado barbecue dinner out on the grass area, which is fun for everyone.

If you’re the athletic type, you’ll be happy to know that the hotel organizes a vacation package tailored to cyclists that includes a nutritious breakfast, storage space and a bike-fixing station. There are a number of great single-track biking trails near the hotel, such as Yehiam, 13 minutes from the hotel; Kabri, 15 minutes away; Nahal Ga’aton, 13 minutes; Metzuba, 18; Nahal Cziv, 19; Hanita, 24; Nahariya Promenade, 23; Ahihud, 27; Biriya Forest, 40; and Kiryat Ata, 41 minutes from the hotel.

There are also a number of tourist attractions worth visiting nearby, such as the Underground Prisoners Museum in Acre; the Yehiam Fortress National Park; the Achziv Illegal Immigration Monument; the Tower and Stockade; and the Har Adir Observation Point, which was constructed as a memorial to those killed in the Second Lebanon War.

If you’re looking for more active outings, northern Israel is filled with exciting options, including riding down on the cable car at Rosh Hanikra and taking a tour of the grottoes; cruising along the Achziv Coast on tornado boats; touring the Nahariya Botanical Gardens and Zoo; horseback riding at Kibbutz Kabri; and participating in special craft and engraving workshops at the Gottesman Center and ceramics workshops at Ziva Julis’s studio. The perfect activity at the end of the day is a tour and wine tasting at the Stern Winery in Tuval.

One of my favorite seafood restaurants in Acre is Mina, which offers tremendously fresh cuisine. Since it’s located right on the sea, the kids can dip their toes in the water as you wait for your orders to arrive. If the name Mina sounds familiar, it’s because this well-known restaurant recently relocated from its previous locale in Nazareth and opened up in place of the El Babor Restaurant.

The menu includes an extraordinarily large number of dining options, which makes Mina a favorite among families where everyone likes different types of food. In addition to the classic dishes, Mina owner Nader Div has created a number of unique dishes with a slight European touch. Like many other seafood restaurants, meals at Mina begin with an assortment of homemade salads.
2 Hahaganah St., Old Acre, (04) 628-9115.

RESTAURANT/BAR Chateau du Roi is set to open at the end of the month in Mi’ilya. (Credit: GARY ROZNIKOVSKI)

Another restaurant/bar in the area is Chateau du Roi in Mi’ilya, which is slated to open at the end of August. In addition to the fantastic food that will be served there, guests will also be enthralled by the ancient building where the restaurant is located. Originally built in the 12th century, the structure first served as a Crusader fortress with a strategic view of Mount Meron. Archeologists built glass windows into the floor so that guests can peek down into the ruins hiding underneath the restaurant. This attraction will keep your kids busy for the better part of the meal.

During the reconstruction of the building, which cost millions of shekels, wine presses from the Crusader period were discovered. This is the only find from this period that has been uncovered in Mi’ilya. The building is also home to another two restaurants: a bar and a gourmet Middle East/Italian bistro. The owner has plans to add a guesthouse on the premises, which should draw even more visitors.

The Western Galilee is so full of attractions and activities, making it one of the best places to escape to during the last few days of the long summer vacation. Sometimes you need to give up on your dream of traveling overseas and accept the fact that there are so many precious gems to enjoy right here at home.
For more information, call: 072-393-4539 or 077-729-5934.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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